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NYC Bars Human-Service Contractors From Union-Busting

NEW YORK, N.Y.—Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation Aug. 18, that will prohibit city human-service contractors from interfering with their workers’ attempts to organize unions.

The bill, passed by a 41-2 vote in the City Council on July 29, will require private and nonprofit groups providing services such as child care and running senior centers to show that they have entered a “labor peace” agreement with a union within 90 days after they receive or renew a city contract. The exception would be if no union has sought to represent their employees.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), the bill’s lead sponsor, estimated the measure would apply to more than 200,000 workers at city contractors. “No city dollars should ever be paid out to employers who engage in union-busting, and that’s exactly what this new law will help ensure,” he said in a statement.

AFSCME District Council 37, the largest city employees’ union, helped draft the bill and had advocated for it. “Labor peace is now the law of the land — and it’s been a long time coming,” said the union’s executive director, Henry Garrido. “Workers in the nonprofit social and human-services sectors have been in crisis. They face dangerous working conditions, rising health-care costs, low pay, and extremely high turnover. They have been asking for the ability to organize without fear, and it has finally been granted.”

DC 37’s Private Sector Division already represents 20,000 workers at human-service contractors, including early childhood educators, homeless outreach specialists, and social workers at shelters for runaway and homeless youth.

Nonprofit organizations are a huge part of the city’s social-services infrastructure. The city hires them to provide foster care, home health care, housing and shelter assistance, employment training and assistance, vocational and educational programs, legal services, recreation programs, and more.

“Many New Yorkers rely on these organizations and their workers so much that they don’t even realize they aren’t actual city agencies,” Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) said.

“Our working conditions are our clients’ healing conditions. The greater the say we have at work, the better ‘the work’ is going to be,” Natasha Pasternack, a family counseling and case analyst at Kings County Supreme Court’s Civil Term, said in a statement released by the mayor’s office and DC 37. “Taking care of the New Yorkers who take care of New Yorkers is a social-justice issue.”

The mayor also signed a bill sponsored by Councilmember Debi Rose (D-Staten Island) that will add domestic workers to the employees covered under the city’s Human Rights Law. Family care-givers, home health aides, and house cleaners “are often vulnerable to discrimination and harassment by nature of being a single employee in their workplace,” noted Carmelyn P. Malalis, chair of the city Commission on Human Rights.

The new law will also require employers to take the commission’s training on sexual harassment and to give employees a notice of their rights.

 The legislation “will right a historical wrong under which domestic workers, for too long, have not been protected from discrimination in the workplace,” said Marrisa Senteno and Allison Julient, New York codirectors of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The organization estimates there are 200,000 domestic workers in the city, of whom 91% are female, 81% immigrants, and 32% black.

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